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The Power of the Pen

A sound bite is a tiny clip from a speech. These posts are designed to be quick ideas (“bites”) about how we busy people can practically integrate wellness into our daily lives. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you accomplish something overwhelming? Start with a manageable crumb.


Are you stuck in the winter doldrums? When life marches back into its normal routine after the excitement of the holiday season, part of me is relieved to resume my schedule, but the other part of me feels crestfallen. After such anticipation of seasonal traditions and time off and feasting with family and friends, it’s a letdown to crash back into the reality of deadlines and diets and the darker days of wintery cold and rain. I’ve found that a gratitude practice helps me cling to the hope of brighter days when I’m shivering.


To start your gratitude practice, find a notebook and a pen, and record five things every day that you’re grateful for. Many people find it helpful to create their list just before they go to bed. Ruminating on what went well that day often helps our brains relax into sleep. A strange fact of life is that what we notice increases: as we begin to look for things to appreciate, we notice more of what is going well. Scan every aspect of your life: What was a “win” today at work? How did someone lighten your load or brighten your day? What good news did you receive? Did you navigate traffic safely? Is your heater working? What did you eat today?


Bonus: apply your gratitude practice to your friends and family. Notice what you’re grateful for, and tell them (or record your observations in notes that they can treasure for years to come)! My husband and I have started a tradition of telling each other five things each day that we appreciate about each other. We’re strengthening our creativity muscles by looking for new things to comment on each day. What a gift both to give and to receive these nuggets of encouragement!


Speaking of writing, did you know that cold and flu viruses can be passed from person to person simply by sharing pens? Of course, it’s much more common to become sick by breathing air-borne viruses. We can minimize that risk by staying away from crowded areas and ill people when possible, washing our hands often, and avoiding touching our face. However, another way to prevent the spread of illness is by carrying (and using!) our own pen to sign receipts.


According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu virus can exist for up to 48 hours on hard surfaces (rebrand.ly/pen-power). This means that if someone who is infected with the flu touches the pen at the restaurant or at the office, the virus might now be alive on the pen . . . and when you sign your name with a flourish, you unwittingly invite the virus to jump onto your skin. Using my own pen seems like a simple way to minimize the spread of illness. What would it take for you to use your own pen while you’re out and about this winter?


Let me know how you’re staying mentally and physically healthy this winter: connect@equipmelifecoaching.com.

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